I’m Not a Formula 1 Fan, but Several of My Friends and I Own It

This post originally appeared in November of 2012, at the first Formula 1 event. It received numerous hits and some comments that suggested the commenters had not read the post carefully, or perhaps at all. So I’m giving y’all a second shot at it. If possible, enjoy.

The Formula 1 United States Grand Prix drew fans from all over the world to the grand opening of The Circuit of the Americas near Austin this weekend.

I wasn’t one of the drawn, but after reading and listening to friends and complaining about the Circuit of the Americas for the past couple of years, I’ve gathered enough information to comment in a semi-reliable fashion.

According to its website, CoTA is a “world-class motorsports and entertainment venue,” “designed to be the only purpose-built facility in the U.S. to host the FORMULA 1 UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX™ through 2021 and V8 SUPERCARS from 2013-2018.” It covers 375 acres and lies fifteen miles from downtown Austin.

Politicians have been patting each others’ backs all ’round, just tickled pink–or maybe green–because the track will bring money into the city and the state and will create jobs. Can’t complain about that. Money and jobs are good.

And such a Big Deal, covering months of negotiations and construction, helps drive

  • the water shortage,
  • underfunded schools,
  • rising property taxes,
  • feral hogs, and
  • how much will remain of San Antonio after Texas has seceded from the Union and all those military installations have packed up their guns and airplanes and hit the road for Iowa,

from the headlines to page 3 of the classifieds, right below Doonsbury.

I haven’t shared the politicians’ or anyone else’s enthusiasm. I’ve railed against CoTA ever since it hit the six o’clock news:

  • paving pasture- and farmland,
  • wasting fossil fuel,
  • spending state tax money to fund what should be a private venture,
  • plopping the facility down in an area with inadequate infrastructure and expecting the taxpayers to pay for repair and upkeep,
  • causing land values and property taxes to skyrocket, and
  • other objections too numerous to mention.

However, on Saturday, while the elite, who the night before had drunk gold-infused champagne at Austin’s finest hotels (I didn’t make that up) were descending from helicopters onto a former field near Elroy, our friend Millie shared with the Fifteen Minutes of Fame writing practice group some facts that tempered my pessimism. She said the CoTA will eventually

  • be open 365 days a year,
  • host concerts, charity runs, sports events, and the like,
  • create hundreds of both full-time and part-time jobs,
  • attract a million people a year,
  • pour oodles into the economy, and
  • promote research that will influence medicine, transportation, and other areas we can’t yet predict.

After listening to her reassurances, FMoF members gave Millie a round of applause and left in better spirits.

But even before Millie’s talk, all my objections had become moot. Because on Friday, I had learned that the Teacher Retirement System of Texas has invested $200 million in Formula 1, for “about a 3% stake in the global racing series.”

Circuit of the Americas Chairman Bobby Epstein said, “Now the teachers win when F1 makes money and when new dollars come into our state as a result of the Grand Prix.”

Consequently, I have become Formula 1’s biggest fan. I will say kind words about it, I will look for it in the sports pages, I may even subscribe to Sports Illustrated. Whatever I can do to promote Formula 1 racing, I will do.

I’ve already X-ed out the piece I wrote last week about a dystopian future when we run out of fossil fuel and  CoTA descends to hosting chariot races.

But there’s another however:  TRS stated, “To be clear, F1 is a completely separate company that is unrelated to Circuit of the Americas, which will host an F1 Grand Prix race near Austin in November 2012. None of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, CVC Capital Partners, or Formula One Group has any ownership interest or business relationship with the Circuit of the Americas.”

So I’ll also continue to wail about the paved-over paradise on which my pocketbook depends.

*****

P. S. One of my objections was that state and city tax money had funded CoTA. The CoTA website carries this note:

“NOTE: To date, State money has not been paid to the developers of Circuit of The Americas and no local community, including the City of Austin, is providing incentive funding to the developers. As is the case with the Super Bowl, NCAA Final Four and other large-scale events in Texas, the Formula 1 event is eligible for expense reimbursements from the state’s Major Events Trust Fund. This reimbursement is performance-based and may be applied for after the first event in November 2012. Any state reimbursement is based on the amount of incremental tax revenue generated by event-related activity that would not have come to Texas if the event were not here.”

So I’m not sure what all the media hoop-la was about. Maybe it concerned lumping CoTA in with the Super Bowl, NCAA Final Four, “and other large-scale events in Texas.” Which, in light of the TRS investment, is from my point of view peachy-keen. Until I read this paragraph, I didn’t know the state reimburses the Superbowl and other such large events. I hope the Texas Library Association Conference gets its share.

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I’m Not a Formula 1 Fan, but Several of My Friends and I Own It

The Formula 1 United States Grand Prix drew fans from all over the world to the grand opening of The Circuit of the Americas near Austin this weekend.

COTA Formula 1 11-16-2012 3-34-56 PM
COTA Formula 1 11-16-2012 3-34-56 PM (Photo credit: Smarter Within)

I myself wasn’t one of the drawn, but after reading and listening to friends and complaining about the Circuit of the Americas for the past couple of years, I’ve gathered enough information to comment in a semi-reliable fashion.

According to its website, CoTA is a “world-class motorsports and entertainment venue,” “designed to be the only purpose-built facility in the U.S. to host the FORMULA 1 UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX™ through 2021 and V8 SUPERCARS from 2013-2018.” It covers 375 acres and lies fifteen miles from downtown Austin.

Politicians have been patting each others’ backs all ’round, just tickled pink–or maybe green–because the track will bring money into the city and the state and will create jobs. Can’t complain about that. Money and jobs are good.

And such a Big Deal, covering months of negotiations and construction, helps drive

  • the water shortage,
  • underfunded schools,
  • rising property taxes,
  • feral hogs, and
  • how much will remain of San Antonio after Texas has seceded from the Union and all those military installations have packed up their guns and airplanes and hit the road for Iowa,

from the headlines to page 3 of the classifieds, right below Doonsbury.

I haven’t shared the politicians’ or anyone else’s enthusiasm. I’ve railed against CoTA ever since it hit the six o’clock news:

  • paving pasture- and farmland,
  • wasting fossil fuel,
  • spending state tax money to fund what should be a private venture,
  • plopping the facility down in an area with inadequate infrastructure and expecting the taxpayers to pay for repair and upkeep,
  • causing land values and property taxes to skyrocket, and
  • other objections too numerous to mention.

However, on Saturday, while the elite, who the night before had drunk gold-infused champagne at Austin’s finest hotels (I didn’t make that up) were descending from helicopters onto a former field near Elroy, our friend Millie shared with the Fifteen Minutes of Fame writing practice group some facts that tempered my pessimism. She said the CoTA will eventually

  • be open 365 days a year,
  • host concerts, charity runs, sports events, and the like,
  • create hundreds of both full-time and part-time jobs,
  • attract a million people a year,
  • pour oodles into the economy, and
  • promote research that will influence medicine, transportation, and other areas we can’t yet predict.

After listening to her reassurances, FMoF members gave Millie a round of applause and left in better spirits.

But even before Millie’s talk, all my objections had become moot. Because on Friday, I had learned that the Teacher Retirement System of Texas has invested $200 million in Formula 1, for “about a 3% stake in the global racing series.”

Circuit of the Americas Chairman Bobby Epstein said, “Now the teachers win when F1 makes money and when new dollars come into our state as a result of the Grand Prix.”

Consequently, I have become Formula 1’s biggest fan. I will say kind words about it, I will look for it in the sports pages, I may even subscribe to Sports Illustrated. Whatever I can do to promote Formula 1 racing, I will do.

I’ve already X-ed out the piece I wrote last week about a dystopian future when we run out of fossil fuel and  CoTA descends to hosting chariot races.

But there’s another however:  TRS stated, “To be clear, F1 is a completely separate company that is unrelated to Circuit of the Americas, which will host an F1 Grand Prix race near Austin in November 2012. None of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, CVC Capital Partners, or Formula One Group has any ownership interest or business relationship with the Circuit of the Americas.”

So I’ll also continue to wail about the paved-over paradise on which my pocketbook depends.

*****

P. S. One of my objections was that state and city tax money had funded CoTA. The CoTA website carries this note:

“NOTE: To date, State money has not been paid to the developers of Circuit of The Americas and no local community, including the City of Austin, is providing incentive funding to the developers. As is the case with the Super Bowl, NCAA Final Four and other large-scale events in Texas, the Formula 1 event is eligible for expense reimbursements from the state’s Major Events Trust Fund. This reimbursement is performance-based and may be applied for after the first event in November 2012. Any state reimbursement is based on the amount of incremental tax revenue generated by event-related activity that would not have come to Texas if the event were not here.”

So I’m not sure what all the media hoop-la was about. Maybe it concerned lumping CoTA in with the Super Bowl, NCAA Final Four, “and other large-scale events in Texas.” Which, in light of the TRS investment, is from my point of view peachy-keen. Until I read this paragraph, I didn’t know the state reimburses the Superbowl and other such large events. I hope the Texas Library Association Conference gets its share.

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Day 22: Sneaky booksellers

A couple of years ago, while Christmas shopping in a chain bookstore I won’t identify, I flagged down a salesperson and told her I’d like a closer look at a set of Twilight Zone DVDs. She spun on her heel and strode across the store toward the locked media cabinet.

Following, I heard her mutter, “There are only about two dozen of them.”

I knew the set I wanted to look at–I’d scouted it out before seeking help–but I hadn’t realized I needed to be specific before we reached our destination.

Hearing the snide comment, I was tempted to switch into schoolteacher mode: “I beg your pardon? I didn’t hear what you said. Would you repeat it?”

But I didn’t. She was young and it was December. Her feet probably hurt.

(As I re-read that sentence it occurred to me that her youth might have been a good reason to speak up and let her know she wasn’t winning friends and influencing people.)

Anyway, I pointed to the box I wanted and she took it to the counter for me. The whole transaction took less than a minute. I escaped to the fiction section, where merchandise isn’t kept behind lock and key.

Later, at the sales counter, I listened to another salesperson tell her co-worker about the stupid man who called asking for a book whose title and author he couldn’t remember. He said he knew what it was about, though.

This woman–also quite young–told the caller if he didn’t know what he wanted, how did he expect her to know, there were only a few thousand titles in the store.

She didn’t look as if her feet hurt at all. She had a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye, as if she had enjoyed hanging up on a potential sale.

I was tempted to slide into librarian mode and tell her what I thought of her take on customer service. But I didn’t.

Instead, I thought about what would have happened if the gentleman had called the library where I used to work. We’d have run circles around each other trying to figure out what book he wanted and how to get it.

As a friend once observed, “All you have to do to make a librarian happy is ask a question. They just brighten right up.”

There’s an independent bookstore in Austin where the salespeople remind me of librarians.

BookPeople staff don’t wait for customers to approach them. They sneak up behind you and ask how you’re doing.

When they find you lurking in the mystery section, unable to make up your mind, they ask who your favorite authors are. Then they suggest something else you might like and take off to find a copy.

The day I told the clerk at the upstairs information desk that I was looking for the YA novel about teen-aged girls hunting flesh-eating unicorns, he barked, “Rampant,” and led me right to the shelf.

That’s the reason–one of them anyway–I like BookPeople.

The folks there act as if they enjoy working with books.

In fact, they act as if they’ve even read them.